Libya on the verge of total collapse

libyaviolenceA little under two years ago, Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, urged British businessmen to share in the reconstruction of Libya and exploit an anticipated boom in natural resources.

Yet now Libya has almost entirely stopped producing oil as the government has lost control of much of the country.

Mutineers have taken over oil ports on the Mediterranean and are seeking to sell crude oil on the black market.

As world attention focused on the coup in Egypt and the poison gas attack in Syria over the past two months, Libya has plunged into its worst political and economic crisis since the defeat of Gaddafi two years ago.

Government authority is disintegrating in all parts of the country putting in doubt claims by American, British and French politicians that Nato’s military action in Libya in 2011 was an outstanding example of a successful foreign military intervention which should be repeated in Syria.

Libya’s prized high-quality crude oil has plunged from 1.4 million barrels a day earlier this year to just 160,000 barrels a day.

Libyans are increasingly at the mercy of militias which act outside the law.

The international community has ignored the escalating violence. The foreign media, which once filled the hotels of Benghazi and Tripoli, have likewise paid little attention to the near collapse of the central government.

Foreigners have fled Benghazi since the American ambassador, Chris Stevens, was murdered in the US consulate by jihadi militiamen last September.

Anarchy has spread around the capital. The government called on the Supreme Security Committee, made up of former anti-Gaddafi militiamen nominally under the control of the interior ministry, to restore order.

Diplomats have come under attack in Tripoli with the EU ambassador’s convoy ambushed outside the Corinthia hotel on the waterfront. A bomb also wrecked the French embassy.

One of the many failings of the post-Gaddafi government is its inability to revive the moribund economy. Libya is wholly dependent on its oil and gas revenues and without these may not be able to pay its civil servants.

A member of the parliamentary energy committee, told Bloomberg that “the government is running on its reserves. If the situation doesn’t improve, it won’t be able to pay salaries by the end of the year”.